Now is a fascinating time for AI in the business landscape. Most sectors have adopted AI technology to some degree and there is widespread acceptance that AI will irreversibly alter work in much of the business world.

According to UK analysts, the financial services sector has been one of the quickest nationally to take up the tech with approximately two third of finance firms already using or beginning to implement AI in order to gain customer insight, streamline IT and detect fraud. Experts are quick to point out that AI does not represent a magic bullet, that suitably transforms every possible scenario. However, from language learning apps to healthtech, AI-driven systems and features have become a part of daily life.

There are, of course, continual fears about the impact on employment if AI implementation is badly managed and about abuse potential of the technology. More imminently, there are valid concerns about an imminent skills gap. Certain manual and administrative tasks may fade away in the future, but new jobs will be created and at present the question is: does the UK have enough employees with the matching skill set?

According to a recent survey, 35% of UK business leaders believe that in the next two years there will be an AI skills gap. 28% of UK business leaders believe we are already experiencing one. This puts the UK slightly above the global average – with 24% of business leaders believing this across the world.

Microsoft reports: “UK companies are more likely to be using AI to drive operational efficiency and free up people from basic tasks but less likely to be deriving new product innovations or happier customers from AI projects. Unfortunately, this puts the UK at a disadvantage, as businesses globally are shifting from focusing AI on driving short-term efficiencies to pursuing higher added-value benefits.”

It’s clear that businesses implementing AI more slowly or less effectively than their competitors will fall behind. UK statistics therefore raise concern over the competitiveness of UK companies. The UK government launched a new research project this summer (to finish in 2021) to examine the skills relating to AI and data science that organisations need – as well as how they employ and train AI and data science specialists.

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